Re: [Discuss-sudbury-model] variations on the model in practice

From: Richard Berlin <>
Date: Fri Apr 8 21:41:01 2005

> The point I have been trying to make here is that I trust kids in
> almost all situations.  I will say that again, I trust kids in almost
> all situations.  I am the parent of a nine year old and he is almost
> totally in control of his life, almost!  There are a few areas where I
> feel that he needs guidance.

As a *parent* I do have responsibilities for guiding my child in some
cases; for engaging in conflict with him over certain things; for
cajoling and even coercing at times. (I'm especially thinking of
safety issues or babies too young to reason with.) As a *parent* I
also cannot help but have power over my child, because I have met his
basic survival needs for him since birth and will continue to do so
until he is able to do it himself.

But that power differential, that need to enter into conflict, and even
just the history of years and years of knowing each other and living in
the same home, define and confine the relationship.

As someone running a democratic school, you are free to define your
role along the same lines as you define your parental role. But one
key to the Sudbury model is that the adults are not _in_loco_parentis_
-- the relationship a student has with a staffer is fundamentally
different from the relationship with the adults who are lovingly
raising them.

> But I realize that even that is to much for Sudbury.

Yes, it is, because part what is powerful about the Sudbury model is
that the staff members are freed from the parent-like role (and
enjoined to avoid assuming it). As a result, the relationships that
they are able to provide to the students are fundamentally different.
That is a major big deal, and I believe one source of frustration is
that nobody has expressed this in a way that has clicked for you.

> It is just a matter of degrees.  I am starting a school where there
> will be no homework, no grades, no tests, where children will be in
> total control of their day, (with some exceptions, no pornography, no
> violence, etc).  Kids know better than I what they need, I firmly
> believe this.  My whole argument was about encouragement.  

And I am sure it will be a fabulous school, which I hope will serve
many children well and which you have every right to call a Democratic
School. It sounds as though the Sudbury model is not the right one for
you to try to implement, but your school could be right for many
families, e.g. those who, like you, believe in democratic education but
can't quite embrace the Sudbury model.

> I am founding a democratic school and I would like a little support
> from SVS people but I have had zero. 

Aha! For a long time your motivations haven't made sense to me. I now
see your parameters differently: "starting a democratic school; don't
quite completely agree with the Sudbury model; but support would be
appreciated." I believe there are some people here who can be
supportive of that (I certainly can, as should be evident by now). On
the other hand, this list is called discuss-SUDBURY-model. The lack of
enthusiasm here for discussion of an "almost-sudbury-model" seems
analogous to what you might expect if you wanted to swap ovo-lacto
recipes with a room full of vegans. So it seems unsurprising that
AERO--which has a broader charter--would be more welcoming and a better
source of support for you.

Best of luck with your school, Todd.

-- Rich
Received on Fri Apr 08 2005 - 21:40:29 EDT

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